The Classical Note: Unexpected Directions at The American Music Festival And How You Can See Midori

Video, Violins, and Poetry at Fort Worth Symphony’s American Music Festival 

While there was a general lean toward lighter repertoire at the Fort Worth Symphony’s American Music festival at Bass Performance Hall last weekend, it was two larger, more serious works that made the strongest impressions. On Friday night, British pianist Leon McCawley joined the orchestra and music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya for Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, a work of Mahleresque proportions written in 1949 and inspired by W.H. Auden’s extended poem of the same name. Though American music eventually turned in quite different directions than those predicted by this mid-century symphony, the work resonated powerfully in this performance, with a topnotch performance by McCawley of the demanding piano obligato.

Speaking of unexpected directions, American composers have, in the past two decades, produced a fresh crop of neo-romantic violin concertos, for which Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto of 1939 may rightfully be regarded as the forerunner.  German violin soloist Augustin Hadelich’s performance Saturday evening with the orchestra and Harth-Bedogy began with a restrained but absolutely convincing serenity that moved irresistibly to the work’s eventual raptures and virtuoso fireworks.

Video presentations were presented as part of brief segments of all three concerts in the course of the festival. While purists of my generation are apt to be skeptical toward this sort of thing, this is clearly an area that merits further exploration: a live concert is always at least partly a visual event, and while audiences don’t really want or need a lot of extraneous material, occasional introduction of non-musical imagery (which is not, after all, an entirely new idea) is part of what orchestras should and will be doing more of in years ahead. Video producer Alton Adkins’ vision was unfailingly musically sensitive—which is not surprising, since he is the also the orchestra’s assistant principal horn player. And Adkins’ concepts were often downright striking in unexpected ways, as in the juxtaposition of one of Copland’s most lyrical movements (“Corral Nocturne” from Rodeo) with lively, sometimes violent images of the bone-crushing adventures of bull riders.

Even With Superstar Headliner, Nasher Keeps Intimate Soundings  Season Reasonably Priced

Local fans of Midori have the chance, for only $25 for any seat in the house, to hear Japanese-American violin superstar perform in recital on October 30 at the 200-seat Nasher Auditorium as part of the always surprising Soundings new music chamber music series. The catch is that, at least partly on the strength of Midori’s appearance, the four-concert series is likely to sell out on subscriptions. (Granted, individual concerts on the series are generally packed anyway.) The good news is that a season ticket is only $65 for museum members ($80 for non-members) —which compares quite reasonably to concert tickets for recitals by stars at that level (top-price single tickets to a single concert on the Cliburn series, for instance, go for $90). So, subscribers to Soundings get to hear and see Midori up close—along with three other concerts—for less than the price of a typical single concert by an artist of that stature.

This week:

Frozen Planet with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson Symphony Center. August 31 and September 1 at 8 p.m. From our events listings: “Composer George Fenton brings his latest in his “Frozen Planet” concert series to our scorchingly hot city, accompanied by HD images of Earth’s polar regions.”